The earth’s date with the sky
By Anuradha Nalapat
Years back while I was agitatedly engaged in an argument on art and life with my college mates, someone else somewhere else, wondered why he had nothing on his plate to eat, and yet another in some other corner of the world lost precious sleep over concept actualizations and implementation methodologies – The beginnings of a new hunger. Since then the earth has silently spun herself on to the threshold; carrying on her shoulders, the oceans, the mountains and her forests. She was being nudged into a new direction – Into the age of Siva. The hungry snake had begun to consume its own tail, blurring the lines between right and wrong, between male and female and between needs and wants – it was not enough to privately satisfy needs anymore; we wanted the world to know. This thirst led to branding. Initially, branded products winked at us; soon we were so enamoured by ‘brands that we ourselves slipped our trousers and allowed ourselves to be branded. We framed ourselves in the best designer frames and sold our individuality and our creativity. After all a cow being branded allowed everyone to know who it belonged to….
Do you remember a time when being able to work with dignity and a good night’s sleep were all one could ask for? During those times it is rumored that there used to be a word called integrity. Another called humility. Even today you come across these words, but they are used in strange ways and contexts that we no longer relate to – creating a vague surprise, an uneasy stirring, – like if we were to come across a cow with three horns, or a thin cat that barks. Alien to our children, I myself have vague memories of what these words may mean from stories that I heard from my parents.
We became more comfortable with words like ‘profit’ and ‘power’- Crisp masculine words; words of a strong mind. Not mushy and feminine like those ‘others’. Riding the word profit, which in turn bred greed in all spheres of life, the race began. A profit oriented ruthless economy looted our natural resources and ecology. We sowed intolerance and inequality, and terrorism and hatred struck root and blossomed in our hearts. Murder and violence caught front page news instead of development and prosperity. We had given rise to a people who had nothing to lose, not even their lives. Where did they come from, so heartless? Surely, utter helplessness and a complete loss of trust cannot be responsible?
A question kept rising-“Isn’t this all wrong?’ and an answer rose- “There is no ‘right’ and ‘wrong’?” Man had his feet in two boats and he had learnt to balance as the boat jostled him. Why can’t he remain firm in one? Why should he learn this acrobatics and make his life miserable? That question never rose.
Globalization sprouted and tried to take over nature. Nature succumbed and quickened the process, setting the ball rolling – man destroying himself – swallowing himself. Globalization was potential energy and a dream come true, but it morphed into a peaking of male energies of aggression and competition at the expense of the feminine qualities of nurturing, inclusiveness and intuitiveness. A fair, the largest ever that the earth had chosen to host- of power, aggression, production and competition. At this fair there was room for those who wished to experience the uncertainties of joy rides, the ups and downs of the giant wheels and the thrill of the bowling alleys.
We did not know whose desires it was that we were blindly running after. They shimmered in the light, stacked up in one stall. Hopes enticed from another stall. We were even offered skating rinks in the peak of summer! Whose jobs were we doing? Whose lives were we living? Guided by the ‘market’ and clever advertising, the Haves ran and ran, and the Have nots blindly followed, or sulked – The dark night of the soul was here. Forty year olds died of heart attacks and brain hemorrhages and conversations centered around tsunamis, earthquakes, landslides, floods, diseases like Plague, Sars, H1N1, Aids, Chickungunya, the list is endless.
We were so productive, we became the product. We were so growth oriented; we did not have the time to enjoy our growth. Boundaries were merged only to recreate stronger and firmer walls. Old images ripped apart and new lines were not only drawn, but also erased at the same speed. All that was once taboo and lay dormant were being churned out, and they surfaced in society like a multi-headed hydra. Geographical, physical and psychological boundaries flared up like old wounds hastily stitched up, but now seeking reprisal; Reprisal, so that they can merge and disappear finally. The march of greed and desire generating endless wealth at the expense of the ‘feminine’ nearly cost us our planet.
The other side of the coin is balanced by the breath of freedom and creation – Freedom from dark nights- A new Renaissance. In the age of Siva everything must finally be annihilated and come to rest. All thoughts, concepts and ideas must be swallowed, as they are not sustainable. Man is thrown into the power of ‘Now’- into the power of the unrelenting moment- that is the only power centre for this era. It is now, as the cycle fulfills itself and the process continues into 2009 amidst the destruction and pain, that the feminine must rise in us. And thanks to the ‘recession’, here at this pause in the race, the earth after a long tiring journey finally gets a chance to meet the sky. There’s the anticipation and mystery of a first date with ones lover in the air. Go for it, grab a piece of the sky, a piece of joy, and stay awhile….
And it is at this time when the axis of power could shift, when consciousness itself must shift in order to survive, that art has a vital role to play.
And what does art have to do with all this? Well what is art if not all this? Art was always meant to be an alert, involved witness, not touched by the changing ‘isms’ and brands. There’s this long journey of the Earth, of Art and a People through Realism, Surrealism, Abstraction, Impressionism, Pseudo realism and more; through Communism, Socialism, Capitalism, and mixed economies – all in the search of the elusive self and always tripping on contemporariness.
Contemporariness is the way and the hindrance. It is only the body that houses the soul. Why dwell on it? Contemporary identities cannot be the truth, and the contemporary cross which comes in psychedelic hues in this era is not all ours to bear and express. We are here to unearth our own crosses; to unload our own illusions. (Chittha Brhama) Our job, more now than ever, remains to unshackle. That is the new direction. Just like the earth that is unloading and reaching for the lightness of the sky.
Art is always about looking at what’s inside oneself. To look at how we have changed deep inside. Not a reckless digging and raking up of didactic muck or commenting on the world; but a compassionate unearthing of what the world is doing to us. The word ‘Compassion’ means ‘with passion’ And it is only with passion – with the heart and not the mind – that the truth can be approached and reclaimed along with reclaiming the ‘feminine’-intuitive side of man kind; along with simple ‘rights and wrongs’ of the moment that allow us to take responsibility for ourselves. Reclaim happiness. Not with a recursive nostalgia, but simply look within you, search for that time when you were really happy and you will find that it is still there with you now. It always has been. What is in the heart is all there is.
There is no time left, no hope left. No god will lend us a hand. The god story, along with us, is poised at the edge of the cliff, waiting for the final push. Only the heart can save us. Leap into it, the space where the masculine meets the feminine, that space you felt, but couldn’t pin down; couldn’t define, couldn’t talk about. What else is there?
Now let the rest go, nudge the whole bloody mass over the edge…..
The time is ripe and the stage set, to nudge our gaze from the painting on the wall to its source-life; and let it remain, there, suspended.
I am art. Not on the wall. Not on a stand.
“The so called human beings also are animals like bipeds and quadrupeds. There is no rhyme or reason in saying that we are the most intelligent of all beings. When we gather all the scattered energy in one stream, we get complete control over Vayu and we get self knowledge. Then only can we be called human beings.
This Sushumna is the Hridaya. (Heart) We get light from the eye of fire which is Sushumna which is the same as Bhru-madhya, and which again is identical to Hridaya.”
Discourses from the Siddha Veda – Swami Sivananda Paramahamsa